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Archive for the ‘MLA’ Category

Pearls of Wisdom by Lucretia McClure

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

[Guest post by Melissa Funaro]

MLA 2015, New Member and First-Time Attendee Program & Breakfast, Sunday May 17th, 7-9am

MLA 2015 “Librarians Without Limits” was my first time attending a Medical Library Association (MLA) Conference. I could not have attended the conference without the Professional Development Award from NN/LM of the New England Region. Leaving the conference I felt proud to be a medical librarian. To be part of a group that encourages the sharing of information. We couldn’t have gotten to where we are today without that commitment.

I was particularly touched by Lucretia McClure’s “Pearls of Wisdom” at the New Member and First-Time Attendee Program and Breakfast early Sunday Morning. A large group of attendees stood up to torrential rains to make it that day. We were all soaked with rain but so excited to be there. My mentor Brenda Linares from UNC Chapel Hill was already there and saved me a seat.

Lucretia McClure spoke about her experience working in a library in the 1960’s, prior to automation, when each job in the library was carried out by people and not machines. Reference used print indexes and search terms had to be looked up in the Index Medicus. If Index Medicus didn’t have the subject heading you wanted, you would have to read the entire article to determine if your search term was mentioned. Librarians were paid to read and it was a way to learn about medicine.

Than machines came along and changed everything. When Index Medicine went online to create MEDLARS, the first large-scale computer system for storing and retrieving scientific information, no one could have foreseen the progression that would lead us to today. With the MEDLARS system, libraries could write to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) with a topic and the NLM would create a bibliography. The only downside was the turnaround time of six weeks.

The Medical Library Assistance Act (MLAA) of 1965 was the first step in providing support to libraries, providing money for buildings, renovations, and collections. It also helped decentralize MEDLARS to authorize funding to establish regional medical libraries where each library became a MEDLARS center. NLM duplicated the MEDLARS tapes and each school could retrieve citation information locally (Dee, 2007).

Than in October of 1968 the real revolution took place when Index Medicus went online to become MEDLINE, making it the first interactive biomedical communication database. Now library patrons could search for information on their own.

Today we have the ability to search giant Databases from anywhere and on a multitude of devices. Now we need to convince students that Google it is not always their best choice to get information.

Her speech made me realize how much the library changed in such a short period of time. What is the mission of medical libraries for the next 50 years? What task can help ignite our imagination and push us to accomplish something great? When we look back in just 10 years, where will the journey have led us? Where will medical libraries be in 2025?

McClure urges us to get involved. As biology and genetics are changing and expanding in all areas she states the importance of being a part of that change if we want to be relevant in 2025.

McClure wants us all to become curious about the future. To consider what the library can become and what we can become as people. Machines are wonderful but they don’t think or interact with people.

She reminds us that MLA can be a partner in our journey. Collectively we can see things coming and the trends that will answer the question: “what is the future of the medical library”? Despite the answer we need colleagues who can help us think about the future and will not hesitate to answer a call for help. MLA is important because it cares about fighting for our place to make sure librarians keep going. As individuals we don’t have much power but together through MLA we have the power of an organization to keep the profession strong. People do count.

I am proud to be a librarian because as professionals we are intent on sharing our great ideas with each other. Our mission remains constant to share information in order to move society forward. I will always remember my first MLA conference and how everyone lives up to McClure’s message.

References: Dee, C. R. The development of the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS). Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 2007; 95(4), 416–425.

By Melissa Funaro
Reference Librarian
Cushing Whitney Medical Library, Yale

Systematic Reviews at Sunrise

Monday, June 1st, 2015

[Guest post by Robin B. Devin]

Thank you to the NNLM/NER for awarding me a MLA Professional Development Award which allowed me to attend this year’s MLA National Conference in Austin, Texas.

Throughout the conference MLA records many of the sessions so those who missed out may view them online. However I am not aware that the Sunrise Seminar meetings are included in those recordings. This year that were two outstanding sessions on systematic reviews that made getting up at the crack of dawn and going out in the pouring rain well worth the effort!

EMBASE sponsored a session “A Unique Method for Fast, High-Quality Systematic Searching” presented by Wichor M. Bramer, a biomedical information specialist from the Netherlands. He used research questions provided from the audience to constrict systematic reviews from multiple databases. His prowess caused one attendee to refer to him as the “rock star of systematic searching.” His presentation slides are available at:

An excellent complement to that presentation was a session sponsored by Wolters Kluwer on “unleashing the Value of Grey Literature in Research Practice” presented by Sarah Bonato from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. In addition to mentioning the value of subscription databases OCLC’s PapersFirst, Ovid’s Northern Light and APA’s PsycEXTRA, she highlighted free resources such as the Grey Literature Report from the New York Academy of Medicine ( and NIH’s She also mentioned using Duck Duck Go ( as an alternative to Google searching to avoid the problems caused by Google’s personalization of search results. A link to her presentation is available:

Submitted by Robin B. Devin, Health Sciences Librarian, University of Rhode Island Library

It’s NOT Just About the Technology

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

[Guest post by Sally Gore]

Thanks to the NN/LM NER for supporting me financially to attend the Medical Library Association’s Annual Meeting in Austin, TX last week. It was a terrific meeting, filled with great speakers, papers, presentations, posters, opportunities to network, and a good bit of fun dancing and taking in the live music that Austin is known for. Being a music lover and band member, I loved that part of the trip. It was an awfully nice bonus.

I attended many sessions that left me with much to think about, ideas for projects, and new resources to seek out. One of these was the final plenary session, featuring Eszter Hargittai, the April McClain-Delaney and John Delaney Research Professor in the Communication Studies Department and faculty associate of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. Hargittai’s talk focused on the skills people have – and more importantly, need – when it comes to using the Internet.

As she stated from the outset, “It’s NOT just about the technology, it’s about the SKILLS to use the technology.” This sentiment resonated with me as I often notice how our tendency to solve our problems – from health care to communication and everything in between – involves throwing some piece of technology at it, believing that it alone will do the trick. Electronic health records are praised as being the great fix to our health care problems, but the technology behind EHRs is only as good as the skills those using them possess, be they providers or patients.

Hargittai listed five skills that she believes users of technology need to have in order to efficiently and effectively utilize the Internet:

  1. Awareness and understanding
  2. Efficient information seeking
  3. Credibility assessment
  4. Participation
  5. Knowledge of privacy and security

Librarians have talked about the value of information literacy for a long time, taking it on as a charge for our profession. Sadly, however, we remain in a society where the overwhelming majority of Internet users are woefully lacking in these skills. Where are we failing? What are we missing? How can we do a better job of teaching these skills to patrons? These are some of the questions I came away with, as I listened to the talk.

It’s a myth (Hargittai offered up a number of myths around Internet use and understanding) that young people today, those that have grown up with the Internet, intuitively know how to use it. We are not born with these skills, as evident by no shortage of news stories about privacy blunders, jobs lost due to social network posts, people believing celebrities more than scientists when it comes to vaccinations, and so much more. We have a responsibility, as librarians and information professionals, to teach these skills and Hargittai’s lecture, filled with results of her research, left no doubt that there’s much work teaching to be done. I imagine others did, too.

Post contributed by:

Sally Gore, MS, MS LIS
Research Evaluation Analyst
UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science
UMass Medical School

Difficult Conversations at MLA

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

[Contributed by Holly Grosetta Nardini, Yale]

The session on Difficult Conversations at MLA’15, sponsored by the Leadership and Management Section, was excellent. They invited a local professor from UT, Dr. Melanie Maxwell, a communications expert. In a very engaging talk, she reminded us of some of the core principles of talking to others. In fact, this type of presentation is useful beyond the workplace; I think of how to apply it at home – speaking to my “tween” children.

Her core piece of advice was that everyone needs validation (even if you don’t think they deserve it). Our job is to try to interpret the motivation behind their behavior. The real skill is to learn to defuse an elevated situation and not confuse our own opinion with facts.
She made a distinction between a combat and curious mentality, offering warnings that there are often *three* sides to every situation, that we must guard above all against displaying contempt, and that we have to fight our own flight response by probing and fully considering the situation. Of course she emphasized good listening skills, but her focus was on listening to show that you care and to help plan a strategic response. Every situation is complex and you have to know your own priorities.

She encouraged us to respond, rather than simply react, which is easier. Responding requires deliberateness, taking responsibility, describing your own feelings, and being sure that you are opening your mind and not freezing. This approach requires practice so you can think about your triggers and figure out your own priorities and prepare.

One interesting tip is that she discourages the traditional use of the “sandwich” – putting the criticism between two compliments. She encourages putting the agenda right up front since unnecessary pleasantries can make people nervous. She also suggested asking “why” over and over again, almost like a toddler, to get the maximum amount of information about a problem.
MLA’15 has an online component with recorded sessions and slides. I highly recommend a review of Dr. Maxwell’s talk which is full of great tips for talking with the people in your life.

Contributed by:

Holly K. Grossetta Nardini
Research and Education Librarian
Cushing/Whitney Medical Library
Yale University

This is the first in a series of blog posts from NN/LM NER Network Members who received awards to fund their registration to attend the Medical Library Association National Confererence in Austin, Texas.

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